Thoughts on Cinematography

As a Director of Photography my goal is to enhance the story through cinematography. By filling the frame appropriately while avoiding calling attention to the cameras actions with a concentration on enhancing the story.

Film making is a team effort. Every aspect of every job moves the story toward the screen. Each time we step on a set one needs to remember that without the story we don’t have jobs. Without good set direction the DP will turn his lens to barren walls. Without good grips the lights will fall and without a good AD the production will flounder. Cinematography means “Movement-Writing” I write (into the film) what other people have created and I try to do it in a way that shows their work as well as add my own personal touch. Every production is only as good as the people working on it. With that I follow the following principles:

1) Fill the frame in a flattering manner.

Be aware of the subject and how the subject appears on the film. Making an effort to compliment the subject with appropriate lighting and framing. Does the object/subject falls on the 1/3rds?? Does the foreground and background work together to enhance the subject to build a better picture?? Is the lighting motivated?? These questions will all have answers if the frame is filled in a coherent way.

2) Make the cinematography credible.

At times one may need to use a device to call attention to the act of creating the image on screen. Cinematography should be “invisible”. Self-Reflexive camera is distracting and can come off gimmicky (unless, of course it is required by the story). When moving the camera via a zoom or a dolly be cognizant of why it is moving and if that movement is enhancing or distracting from the story. That doesn’t mean that all shooting needs to be done a-la “Drag Net”. On the contrary–As cinematographer one needs to move through the story with the characters painting their story frame by frame. It simply needs to be done in a justified and appropriate manner. Look at the set and how the people are interacting with it. If a change needs to be made in order to illustrate the action better. Would it be possible within the constraints of the production??

3) Enhance the story with interesting camera work.

Making sure that the director’s idea of the story is told in a fresh and unique manner. Which will bring out the best details in every aspect of the production from costume to writing. Interesting camera does not mean distracting camera. It means cinematography that bears a mark of the maker. A style and look all its own.

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